Doktor Luther smashes “The Golden Compass”

The managing editor of “First Things” is Anthony Sacramone, a Missouri Synod Lutheran, who channeled Martin Luther in his immitable blog Luther at the Movies, which I have been inspecting every week to see if it has come back from its health-imposed hiatus. Now I see that the Doktor’s execrable assistant, the aforementioned managing editor, is taking up partial blogging responsibilities at the First Things blog and so is putting Luther at the Movies to bed. (You will want, however, to go to that site to read Doktor Luther’s farewell.)

Anyway, the spirit and prose stylings of Luther at the Movies remains, and Mr. Sacramone has to be one of the best writers on the web (of whom there are untold millions). Here is a sampling of what he says about “The Golden Compass,” the movie version of Philip Pullman’s anti-Christian fantasy:

It is typical to give Pullman high marks for some of his more inventive gimmicks, like the daemons. Frankly, they wore thin by the second book. Just more talking animals. The author’s inversion of, and therefore dependence on, C.S. Lewis is as subtle as a colonoscopy, but he also owes a debt to Madeleine L’Engle, it seems to me. And then there are all those witches, the single most boring group of preternatural creatures ever concocted. In the second book, they just go on and on until you realize why the Puritans finally burned them at the stake–it was the only way to make them stop talking.

I couldn’t stomach the whole trilogy, frankly, because Pullman’s muse is fueled by one thing and one thing only: hate. And the object of that hate is not just obscurantism or authoritarianism or clericalism. EVERY LAST CHRISTIAN, EVERY LAST PERSON CONNECTED WITH THE CHURCH, IS EVIL. When Pullman was called on this in an interview, he replied that it probably bespoke a lack of art on his part. No, it bespoke the focused intention of the author: To vilify Christians and Christianity.

. . . . . . . . . .

So if little Robespierre comes up to you with his little mopey face and pleads, “But the Hitlers next door let their kids see The Golden Compass,” you just reply, “And that’s because Arthur and Eva are horrible parents with a penchant for movies about blonde-haired, blue-eyed people trampling northern lands by aid of the occult and gimcrack science. Now go back to your alcove and finish reading The Gulag Archipelago and learn what a real atheist alternative universe is all about.”

Read the whole thing, which also ridicules some Christian groups and publications that PRAISED the movie (which, by the way, is bombing at the box office–it cost as much to make as two of the Lord of the Rings movies, but it is not making its expenses, putting the plan to film the other two books of the trilogy in jeopardy). I’m making the First Things blog with Anthony Sacramone an honorary member of Cranach’s blog roll.

Fulfilling Mormon prophecy?

Floyd Bass, ex-Mormon, said this in a comment on this blog:

The Mormons (especially the early ones) believe that the U.S. Constitution was inspired by their god for the main purpose of providing a country in which Mormonism could flourish.

They also believe (somewhat unofficially, but Joe Smith or Brigham Young said it, which makes it almost inspired) that when the Constitution was ‘hanging by a thread’ (whatever that means) that a Mormon would assume some kind of high office in this country and rescue it. This event is a precursor to their Jesus’ return to establish a 1000-year earthly kingdom (I suppose he would become president? King of the U.S.?).
Draw what conclusion you will from this.

Can anyone confirm this? Would a Romney presidency be a fulfillment of Mormon prophecy?

What Mormons believe

Mike Huckabee is getting hammered, ridiculed, and condemned for asking a reporter if Mormons really believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers. But, according to the official Latter-Day Saints website, Mormons DO believe that. Read it yourself here. A sampling:

On first hearing, the doctrine that Lucifer and our Lord, Jesus Christ, are brothers may seem surprising to some—especially to those unacquainted with latter-day revelations. But both the scriptures and the prophets affirm that Jesus Christ and Lucifer are indeed offspring of our Heavenly Father and, therefore, spirit brothers.

See, Mormons believe that God has a body (“of flesh and bones“) and sexually engenders us all with his wife, our “Heavenly Mother.” She gives birth to us all as spirit children,” who pre-exist until we are born into this world. Furthermore, a man who has reached the highest level of salvation (the Celestial Kingdom) and who has that special marriage ceremony in a Temple will, upon death, become the god of his own universe. He and his wife will then populate that universe with spirit children of their own. Our God, therefore, is a perfected human being who got his universe. As a Mormon slogan puts it, “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may be.”

(The links are to official Mormon sites. For more on the Heavenly Mother, which officials try to play down though the teaching is in official documents and Mormon piety, see this and this. I don’t want to mischaracterize the religion. If I have any of this wrong, please correct me.)

I will hand this to the Mormons: They have succeeded in filling in the gaps of our knowledge with a vision of the afterlife that is very appealing: getting to be a god; sexual relations for all eternity; the ultimate fantasies of sex and power. This, by the way, underlies the Mormons’ famed “family values.” The Mormon religion involves the apotheosis of family, turning family into a religion, or, a Christian might say, turning family into an idol.

But it sounds like Mormonism is just a few modernizing revelations away from being the ultimate postmodernist religion: a Heavenly Mother for the feminists; self-deification; a universe of your own.

Cranach makes the New Yorker

Not the blog, the artist. The article lauds Lucas Cranach, giving a detailed account of his art and a fair, though not quite comprehending, account of his faith. (Including the rather surprised revelation that “Sex was O.K. with Luther.”) A summary of the author’s thesis:

As an artist, he siphoned his era’s chaotic energies into wonderments of style. His re-visionings of humanity are philosophically resonant and lots of fun.

HT: Paul McCain


If your holiday customs include gathering the family around for a friendly yet cutthroat game of Monopoly, you should read this article: War-opoly: How History’s Most Popular Board Game Helped Defend The Free World. It tells about how during World War II, the allies hid miniature files, compasses, escape maps, and real money into the game, which was allowed into German POW camps, helping untold numbers of prisoners escape. It also tells about how Monopoly helped to spread capitalism in communist countries, which tried vainly to ban the game.

And to see what is next for our economy, judging from this cultural icon, consider that the latest version of this game heralds the elmination of money: all of that brightly colored cash is replaced by an electronic debit card!

Bible Stories for Children

I once reviewed for WORLD a whole slew of “Christian” videos for children and found that very few of them had any true Christian elements. They were mostly just moralism, with little mention of Christ and the Gospel. This is also true of much SUNDAY SCHOOL curriculum, especially the “generic” variety designed to be used by all denominations and thus intentionally void of theological or spiritual content.

According to this story in USA Today, no less, this is even the case with children’s Bible story books! It quotes Ted Olsen, editor of “Christianity Today,” on the difficulty he has in finding books about Jesus for his son Leif:

“Most Bible stories are told like Aesop’s fables, refitted to a moral lesson that is almost always, ‘Obey! Obey your parents! Obey God! Oh, look how good Noah is — he obeyed God!’ ” Olsen says.

“Sure, we want Leif to understand obedience, repentance and forgiveness. But we’re more concerned that he get to know Jesus is the grand arc of the Bible story. We’re like a lot of young parents who don’t want to be talked down to. We’re not afraid of encountering theology. We want to be intellectually and spiritually engaged when we read to Leif.”

I was so proud, just coming back from a board meeting of Concordia Publishing House, to see that company lifted up as an exception, with stirring quotations from publisher Paul McCain (see his Cyberbrethren site on my blog roll):

“The more seriously a church body regards the Bible, the more seriously they will present it, in a child-friendly way, but not water the content. We don’t throw the King James Bible at them, but we don’t turn it into Mother Goose, either. We don’t avoid the s-word, for sin; the G-word, for God; or the J-word, for Jesus,” McCain says.

Concordia has compilations such as A Child’s Garden of Bible Stories that have sold steadily since 1948 and a 40-year-old series of 105 pamphlets known as the Arch books. They feature scores of stories, from the Nativity to obscure stories such as Zerubbabel Rebuilds the Temple, from Ezra 3:6.

“I grew up on these books,” says McCain, 45. “We update the illustrations regularly, but we’re much less prone to waffle with the culture. We don’t make the Bible what it’s not. But the booklets are a neat way to inculcate Bible literacy.”

CPH has a huge list of children’s books, including God Made It For You by Charles Lehmann and What Happened to “Merry Christmas”? by Robert Baker, both readers and commenters on this blog. And the brand new Growing In Christ Sunday School curriculum is beautifully Christ-centered all the way through.

What other resources for children would you recommend that parents either consider or stay away from?

UPDATE: See this for an account of Paul McCain’s interview with the reporter and how she liked one particular Arch book, saying, “I notice that no matter what Bible story you are telling you always end up coming back to talk about Jesus!”